What Do Readers Look For In a Book? 7 Factors They Look At

A reader’s eye will often be drawn to a book with the right words in the title. They may also look for an author with a familiar name, or they might skim through the opening lines of text or the back cover. As authors, we must pay attention to these elements when writing and publishing our books, so readers are more likely to find what they are looking for.

Readers first look for a few things, such as the cover design and color scheme that attract their attention closely followed by the back cover description to pick a book to buy. We will discuss other factors that writers should keep in mind as they create a design for successful sales.

Woman Looking for a Book

Genre

There are three main factors that readers use to evaluate your book.

The first factor many people evaluate is the genre of a book. If they are not buying a new book from a favorite author, most readers begin by looking in a particular niche or two.

You can help yourself by making sure your book has a clear genre. In addition, you can help readers by making sure your cover and title give off the right vibe for that niche.

There are subtle clues such as the cover style, title, color schemes, and how descriptions style varies significantly from one genre to the next.

Make sure to evaluate all of those elements before publishing your book.

Remember that genre is not really for you, the writer. It is for the reader to be able to narrow the massive list of new books down into a manageable category.

Identifying your genre can help a new author get found quickly.

Cover

The next of the most common things that readers look for in a book is the cover. The cover is vital for marketing your book and can determine whether someone chooses to read it. It is far more important than many writers realize.

It is important enough that it could be the first and only thing that many readers use to choose if they even want to pick up your book to read the back-cover blurb to see if they are interested.

So it is essential that you take the time to make sure that your cover looks professional and shows off what readers are expecting from this type of story.

The cover should represent what you are writing about, so make sure you have an exciting or compelling image that reflects that. Also, make sure that color is used effectively on the cover because it can either attract people or turn them away.

If you have trouble with the cover, there is no shame in hiring someone to make one for you. It will be money well spent if it means more sales.

You want your book to stand out on a shelf full of other books, so take some time and think about what might catch a reader’s eye.

Covers within a niche typically have a fairly standard look that attracts readers to them. Authors should be careful not to mislead their audience by making the book not look like it fits in the genre.

The standard for covers, titles and color schemes within genres slowly change over time, so you need to pay attention and evaluate what you should do for each book.

Make sure you are fitting within reader expectations or risk getting ignored.

Back Cover Description

The back cover description, also known as the book blurb, is the third of the three main factors that readers use to evaluate a book.

The way you introduce your story can be make or break because it will attract some people and push others away depending on how well you show off what they could expect from this type of story.

The back cover has a minimal space to pull readers in, so you want to make sure that it is compelling and engaging.

You do not need a lot of the mundane details such as character names, place or time-period but you should be able to convey what kind of story this is without giving away any plot points.

It needs to give enough information about what happens in your book without giving away the whole story.

It needs to be exciting enough that readers immediately want to know more.

You only typically have between 100 and 200 words to make a sale, so these are likely to be the most important words you will write.

Take your time, write multiple versions to ensure that your book stands out as the one they should buy

Length

After those main items, there are other factors that readers look at, such as the length of your book.

There is a common misconception that long books are better than short ones, but this might not be true. In fact, shorter books can sometimes be more appealing to readers because they offer a quick and easy read.

The genre can again at least partially dictate length to some degree.

For example, a sci-fi fan looking for something in the space opera sub-genre will expect a very long book or most likely several long books telling a sprawling tale with many characters, locations and plot lines.

A detective fiction reader, on the other hand, would not typically be 1000 pages per book. One book usually tells the whole story in 300-400 pages.

It is essential to know what your readers want and expect and then give it to them.

This again goes back to knowing your audience first before you start writing, so check out some books similar to yours in length, genre and style before you begin.

Length is a significant factor in how your book will be read and perceived, but it does not mean that longer automatically means better. Short books can still tell compelling stories as long as they are written well, so don’t discount them if this is what captures your imagination.

The Price

The price of your book will also be a factor in a purchase decision. A reader will generally expect to pay less for a book by a new author versus one by an established one.

Length may have an impact as well, but not as much as you think. Two books with double the page count of the other will not be double the price, for example, but could be 10-20% more.

A physical book is perceived by readers as having a great value than a digital one, so expect to sell your print versions for more as well.

This perception means that eBooks are under $5 for all but the most successful writers for most readers.

It is possible to buck some of these trends if your book has many reviews and you are reaching the top levels in various bestseller lists. Readers will then start to recognize that you have written something good enough that they should pay more for it.

Don’t be afraid to vary your price based on your success but be careful not to appear to be overcharging. It is a fine line to walk and it is better to be slightly under and sell more copies than be overvalued.

Plot

The blurb on the back of the book may be brief, but it must entice the reader into becoming a buyer by hinting at the plot without giving away too much.

In a few words, it needs to sound engaging and interesting enough so that the reader wants to know what your story is about.

The best way to do this is probably to write several versions of a blurb until you find one which works well for both enticing the reader and not giving too much away.

Character

In the same blurb, you also need to make the reader connect to your characters.

In the book, they need to relate and want to know more about them, what they are like and why they behave as they do in different situations.

Somehow in a very brief description of your book, you need to make the reader feel that you have given them a sense of who these characters are.

This can be difficult but take your time to add a couple of sentences about your main character. Then, with a bit of practice writing multiple versions, you can explain the main plot and characters to entice the reader into wanting to buy your book in a few sentences.

An interesting character is the key here and if you can make your reader want to know more about them, they will be more likely to buy the book.


These are the 7 most important items that a reader will be looking for in a book as they browse for something to buy. So many of them can be easy to get right now that you know what to pay attention to.

Just make sure to spend time working on them to get them right to maximize your chance of a sale.

How did you do with these your last book? Let us know in the comments below what you would do differently next time.

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